There’s folks building homes as sweet as can be They’re leveling their yards and planting their trees But my little hut, I’ll just let it be Lord Jesus is building a mansion for me
Mansions for Me, Bill Monroe
Joe has been planting trees and fruit brambles (does thornless also mean bramble-less?) and I finally have my garden planted. It was hot and dry and now it is cool and rainy. Maybe a false start to summer, but I am happy to be reminded I don’t get to be in charge of any of it. My little hut, I’ll just let it be…
My garden dirt is so happy though! I’ve never in my life had more crumbly, beautiful dirt. Between the topsoil last year on our no-till, cardboard beds, and the lovely compost from our wildflower nursery neighbors, it is excellent. I made a bunch of mounds to start melon seeds on and I’ll transplant the seedlings to the fence if they come out strong.
I tried to switch up the hugelkultur beds—if it had tomatoes last year, I moved in carrots and lettuce instead. Cabbage is with the onions; broccoli is minding its own business. I had done some lasagna method layering back in the fall with newspaper and straw and then I fluffed it all up last month. It didn’t break down completely but all the seeds I’ve tossed on top seem to quickly root and sprout up.
Over in the topsoil/compost area the beans look happy (they always do in the beginning) and I’ve got more hot peppers than I know what to do with—I think I was suckered in by the writing on the back of the package, pairs wonderfully with couscous! Dang you, Baker Creek heirloom seed marketing team. I even planted corn for Joe in the best part of the garden—love is sacrifice, no? We will see how it grows.
I am stuffing bits of cardboard along the edge of my fencing to smother the weeds that want to join the fun. If I can just keep ahead of the weeds!
Last year I sprinkled a wild flower mix between the corn and sunflowers because we were going to set up our beehive by the garden. (This was idealistic, Colorado thinking at its best. Who in their right Midwest mind sprinkles glorified weeds in their vegetable garden?! In the mountains, it made sense.) Well, we ended up with the bees by the back barn but now the second year perennial flowers are popping up. I’ve got Sweet William and Siberian wallflowers and daisies—only one variety is worth keeping.
I am so tickled to be out of school for summer. I was working my tail off and getting discouraged with the politics and educational misnomers. It is a breath of fresh air to make food and wash dishes and weed the garden. I stay up late and watch NBA finals with Jubal and read books out loud on the porch (Henry and Beezus). Luke is channeling his inner John Hartford. Jubal is giving guitar lessons. FC turns on the Korg and will play all day if I don’t holler at him to turn it off. Gretty has been picking out Boil That Cabbage Down on her tiny fiddle. And if they do all the music and their chores I let them play Minecraft and Star Wars on the PS4. Maybe. (Ha.)
In March I started a worm bin as a mini compost project. I bought red wrigglers at Walmart and added them to a large Tupperware container that held a mix of dirt and random kitchen scraps. I left this experiment in the detached garage in case all the worms wanted to escape. After one night, three dried up corpses were on the floor. I read about what to do and Google told me to put a cardboard cover over the dirt.
No more escapees! The worms have been happy and prolific, giving me lots of worm babies and grandworms. I have added weird things to the container, like haircut trimmings, but mostly I stick to a non-steady diet of vegetable scraps, egg shells, and coffee grounds. They don’t make it through a batch of potato peels very fast, so I avoid adding big bulky things to the mix. Last week I added some thatch (grass clippings) and it seems to be a big hit with my wormies.
As I have tended my garden or needed something compost-y to beef up the soil, I will dig deep to the bottom of my worm bin and get a scoop of castings. Yesterday I got some sick-looking freebie eggplant and jalapeño baby plants from the nursery down the road. I wanted to plug a few veggies into some empty spots in the garden. Before I put them in the ground, I mixed a handful of worm castings (and worms, because they are THICK) into the dirt and today my jalapeños look like they’ve never felt more alive.
Here is what I have learned from the project: *A fancy worm setup is not necessary unless you want to rely on it as your only compost. The worms don’t like being disturbed when you go digging for castings at the bottom, but they are worms, after all. They’ll get over it! *Adding variety isn’t as important as adding the stuff that breaks down easy. I kind of thought I would have to do more chemistry—a little of this, a little of that—but the worms are happy to live a coffee-eggshell-lettuce-cardboard existence. It’s better to go light-handed on the scraps than overload them. I wouldn’t ever put in a watermelon rind or something that size. It would attract more flies than anything, and I’d forever be pushing them out of the way to get to the castings. If I need bulk because I’ve been using up castings in my garden, I add some shovelfuls of cleanish dirt. *Putting a layer of cardboard on top of the worm bin before lightly closing the lid on top keeps things dark and damp. *The worms did fine, weather-wise, from March until now when it’s getting pretty hot in the garage. I’ve moved them onto my enclosed porch now, where it is much cooler.
I guess the idea behind vermiculture is this: you’re creating a happy, designated worm home to multiply and harvest the effectiveness of these little decomposers. You’re not necessarily looking for an alternative garbage disposal, just taking advantage of the quiet, helpful critters in your Tupperware bin.